New York Jets Training Camp Preview 2009

First a few updates:

1. Yankees are up a healthy 2.5 games on Boston after taking 3 out 4 from the A’s, and 9 out of 10 on their home stand. Big week coming up with road trips to Tampa and Chicago though, I am saying they take 2 out 3 against the Rays to start the week off. How about those Mets, though? They won 2 out of 3 this weekend…shocking.

2. Big day tomorrow, we have our playoffs in my YMCA basketball league. The whole tournament is tomorrow, and we are entering as the #2 seed, despite our sub-par 3-3 regular season record. You heard it  here first, the green team is taking home the trophy….well we don’t have a trophy, but we are taking the title anyway.

New York Jets Training Camp Preview 2009

The Jets are heading up to Cortland, New York at the end of this week to begin their 2009 season. It will be Rex Ryan’s first camp as a head coach in the NFL and all ears will be up for the boisterous former defensive coordinator of the Ravens, while all eyes will be on prized rookie quarterback Mark Sanchez. What should you look for over the next 6 weeks of non-regular season football? Here’s a guide…

– The primary storyline will be the quarterback competition between rookie Mark Sanchez and 4th year veteran Kellen Clemens. Expect daily tallies of their statistics in 7 on 7’s and team drills and a daily winner of the practice proclaimed by all the beat writers. August 14th is the date of the Jets first pre-season game, and it will be interesting to see if Mark Sanchez can unseat Kellen Clemens by that day, and if he doesn’t, if he can outplay him on that night. Clemens will take the first snap with the first offense this week, but Sanchez will be given every shot to win the job. Unless Clemens turns into Peyton Manning this summer or Sanchez turns into Brooks Bollinger, you can bet on #6 being under center for week 1.

– Thomas Jones and Leon Washington are both currently in contract disputes and it remains to be seen if they will skip training camp and accept the daily fines. Apparently, there has been minor progress in Washington’s talks but no movement on Thomas Jones. I am going to be an optimist and say that Washington shows up to camp and a deal is done within the first week. Jones will show up but won’t talk to the media. Eventually, the Jets will reach some compromise with him, as they did with Laveranues Coles and Chris Baker last year to appease Jones for this season before letting him go at the end of the year. In other running back news, keep an eye on rookie Shonn Greene and how many carries he is getting in goal-line/short yardage situations. The coaching staff loves him and believes he is the heir apparent to Jones. Danny Woodhead will make for some nice training camp stories but won’t make the roster, the fifth running back will be Jehuu Caulcrick, who has the ability to play both FB and RB and will remind Rex Ryan of Le’Ron McClain.

– Chansi Stuckey will start out as the Jets #2 receiver and probably won’t relinquish the job. David Clowney is probably the fastest guy on the team but needs to get over the case of the drops he had in the spring. Brad Smith will get everybody excited, like he does every August, but then likely settle in his #4 receiver role. Watch for Mario Urrutia and Huey Whittaker, two little known guys who have good combinations of size and speed. Urrutia is 6’6 and could provide the Jets with a much needed red-zone target.

– The battle for the Jets #2 tight end spot will be between converted defensive lineman Kareem Brown, journeyman backup Richard Owens, and two UDFA’s J’Nathan Bullock and Jack Simmons. The coaching staff must think Brown can handle the transition or else they would have signed somebody else, right? I am still skeptical but as of now, look for Brown and Simmons to rise to the top of this weak group behind Dustin Keller. Speaking of #81, it will be interesting to see all the different places Brian Schottenheimer has him lined up on in the offense.

– Watch the offensive lineman if you want, but just pray that none of the them get hurt. The coaching staff will be hoping to see 6th round draft pick Matt Slauson show long term potential and also that Robert Turner and Wayne Hunter can handle extended playing time if one of the front five go down. Expect to see Turner also used as an extra tight end in some short yardage sets.

– On defense, listen for Bart Scott’s incessant trash talking and enjoy the the thought of him and David Harris making all the tackles they want because of the protection provided by Kris Jenkins, who should have a light work load this August. Backups Sione Pouha and Howard Green need the reps. Also, watch out for Ropati Pitoitua who spent last season on the practice squad, but could be a factor on the defensive line rotation. Mike DeVito and Marques Douglas will be out to prove they can handle splitting the one starting defensive end spot this pre-season.

– Vernon Gholston will be facing tons of pressure and daily scrutiny to live up to his lofty draft status. It is on him to lead the way in filling the hole left by Calvin Pace for the first four weeks of the regular season. Marques Murrell and Jason Trunsick will also be seeing increased reps at the outside linebacker position. Another guy to watch for is UDFA Jamaal Westerman from Rutgers, who Rex Ryan has done nothing but rave about since the second he stepped on the field this past spring. Westerman was a defensive end in college but has been working at both inside and outside linebacker for the Jets.

– In the secondary, look for a more active Kerry Rhodes and and a battle for reps alongside Darrelle Revis at cornerback. Lito Sheppard should be the starter opposite him, but beyond him Dwight Lowery, Donald Strickland, Drew Coleman, and Ahmad Carroll will be battling for playing time.

– By the way, who is the Jets punter? Reggie Hodges? I hope not. Hopefully, rookie TJ Conley can seize the job.

Enjoy the practices, and let’s all look forward to:

1. The meticulously put together daily passing statistics of Mark Sanchez, with every pass dissected and analyzed.

2. The stories about how versatile Brad Smith is.

3. The stories about how Danny Woodhead is fighting against the odds, because he played Division II football and because he is really small.

4. The stories about Leon Washington getting the ball more.

5. Rex Ryan’s daily press conferences, filled with jokes, trash-talk, and amusing stories.

6. The discussion of how much more “fun” Ryan is than Eric Mangini and how he has brought a new attitude to the team.

7. The stories about Bart Scott yelling at the offense after every play.

8. The stories about how fast David Clowney is.

9. The inevitable player on offense and defense who comes out of nowhere to have a great camp, but then still gets cut after the last pre-season game.

10. The 17 articles that will be written if Vernon Gholston misses a tackle at practice.

Jets Highlight of the Day: Season highlights from 2006…the last time the Jets made the playoffs.

Jets Positional Analysis: Offensive Line

First a few updates:

1. Following the release of Bubba Franks, the Jets have signed the immortal Richard Owens to play tight end. He wasn’t in football last season but in the four seasons prior to that he racked up 17 catches for 141 yards and 1 touchdown…yippeee. Where is Doug Jolley when you need him?

2. I updated the depth chart for the first time in a month, no major changes but worth a glance if you are interested in seeing everybody the Jets currently have at every position.

Jets Positional Analysis: Offensive Line

Over the next 6 weeks, I am going to go through all of the Jets positions and assess each player, continuing today with the offensive line:

1. Nick Mangold #74, Starting Center, Last Season: Started 16 Games, Selected to Pro-Bowl

History: A first round pick of the Jets in 2006, Mangold has been a great all-around lineman since the moment he put on green and white. After being an alternate in the pro-bowl his first two seasons, he was selected last year and it was well deserved. He is mobile and does a good job in both pass protection and run blocking, and should be an anchor on the Jets line for the next decade.

Chance of Making Roster: 100%

Best Case Scenario for 2009: Mangold stays healthy and develops into a leader on the offense. He begins a long stretch of seasons as an all-pro center.

Worst Case Scenario for 2009: It is hard to see Mangold regressing at this point of his career, so the only worst case I think of is him getting hurt.

Prediction: I have my fingers crossed for another healthy 16 games of pro-bowl caliber play from Mangold and if he is healthy than you should expect an all-pro appearance.

2. D’Brickashaw Ferguson #60, Starting Left Tackle, Last Season: Started 16 Games, Pro-Bowl Alternate

History: The fourth overall pick in the 2006 draft, Ferguson has been a good but not great player. He has improved each year but still isn’t an elite tackle in the NFL. Regardless, he has never missed a game in his first three seasons and is excellent in pass protection.

Chance of Making Roster: 100%

Best Case Scenario for 2009: D’Brick takes his game to the next level and makes his first pro-bowl appearance. He improves his run blocking and his allowed sack total drops from the previous season.

Worst Case Scenario for 2009: He struggles as he did during the 2007 season, regressing from last season’s success or is injured.

Prediction: D’Brick will remain a very good starter for the Jets and if a few things break a certain way, he might end up in Hawaii at the end of the year.

3. Alan Faneca #66, Starting Left Guard, Last Season: Started 16 Games, Selected to Pro-Bowl

History: The Jets signed Faneca to a massive contract last season, despite his somewhat advanced age. He responded witha very good season, where he provided strong veteran leadership to both Mangold and Ferguson. He made the pro-bowl because of his reputation.

Chance of Making Roster: 100%

Best Case Scenario for 2009: Faneca matches his play from last year, showing no signs of decline due to age.

Worst Case Scenario for 2009: He begins to break down in only the second year of his five year contract.

Prediction: Faneca is a pro’s pro and will be a solid piece of the Jets offensive line for another year.

4. Brandon Moore #65, Starting Right Guard, Last Season: Started 16 Games

History: He has started 73 consecutive games for the Jets at right guard, getting better with age. He is extremely underrated and arguably out-played Alan Faneca last season. The Jets were almost stupid enough to let him get away this year but fortunately brought him back.

Chance of Making Roster: 100%

Best Case Scenario for 2009: He keeps doing what he has been doing the past few years, and maybe receives a little more recognition now that he signed a new contract.

Worst Case Scenario for 2009: An injury ends his consecutive starts streak.

Prediction: After the past few years, how can I not predict Moore to start 16 games and be a very good guard for the Jets?

5. Damien Woody #67, Starting Right Tackle, Last Season: Started 16 Games

History: The Jets biggest question mark on offensive line heading into last season and most questionable signing, Woody responded with a strong season. He is especially valuable because of his ability to also play guard and center.

Chance of Making Roster: 100%

Best Case Scenario for 2009: Woody does exactly what he did last year, making Mike Tannenbaum look smart for giving him that big contract last year.

Worst Case Scenario for 2009: Woody struggles at tackle, making Mike Tannenbaum look stupid for giving him that big contract last year.

Prediction: The guy I am most worried about on the Jets offensive line. I think (more like hope) Woody does duplicate his play from last year.

6. Robert Turner #75, Backup Guard/Tackle, Last Season: Active For 16 Games

History: Turner has been a Jets backup lineman the past two years. He saw action in 2007 at guard and last season as an extra tight end in short yardage packages. He would be the first one off the bench if Faneca or Moore got hurt this season.

Chance of Making Roster: 90%

Best Case Scenario for 2009: He contributes again in short yardage packages and is able to answer the bell if he is called to play because of injury.

Worst Case Scenario for 2009: He struggles in training camp and is cut, leaving the Jets even thinner at the backup OL spot.

Prediction: Turner is a pretty good athlete and does have experience, I see him remaining the Jets top backup this year and seeing the field in short yardage sets.

7. Wayne Hunter #78, Backup Tackle, Last Season: Active for 16 Games

History: He has been with the Jets the past two years after playing with Seattle and Jacksonville. He was an extra tight end in some short yardage packages last year (look at the big fella out in space last year against the BIlls). As of now, he is the first tackle off the bench in case of injury.

Chance of Making Roster: 80%

Best Case Scenario for 2009: He steps in, if needed and hopefully he isn’t needed.

Worst Case Scenario for 2009: He loses his roster spot to one of the younger lineman.

Prediction: I don’t see why he wouldn’t remain on the active roster, unless somebody really sticks out in pre-season or bombs out.

8. Matt Slauson #68, Backup Guard/Tackle, 6th Round Pick in 2009 NFL Draft

History: The Jets took him in the 6th round this year. Offensive line coach Bill Callahan is familiar with him from his days at Nebraska. The Jets like his versatility, since he has starting experience at tackle and guard. He played guard last season for the Cornhuskers.

Chance of Making Roster: 80%

Best Case Scenario for 2009: He learns the next couple of seasons behind the veterans and eventually becomes a starter.

Worst Case Scenario for 2009: He gets cut.

Prediction: I think he will be on the 53 man roster and bounce between being active and inactive.

The Rest of the Guys:

9. Stanley Daniels #64 – Backup tackle who has bounced around the Jets practice squad/training camp the past couple of years.

10. Tavita Thompson #62 – UDFA Tackle from Oregon State.

11. Ryan McKee #69 – UDFA Tackle from Southern Mississippi.

12. Michael Kracalick #76 – Big (6’8, 335 Lbs) tackle who has been in the NFL for 4 seasons.

13. Michael Parenton #56 – UDFA Center from Tulane.

14. Nevin McCaskill –  A tackle, Jets just signed him a few days ago

Overall Position Analysis: The Jets have one of the best front fives in football but some question marks behind them. Mangold and Ferguson should keep improving, Moore is as steady as they come, and hopefully Faneca and Woody won’t start breaking down yet. Hopefully, Slauson turns into a good prospect/eventual starter for this team.

New Jets Player Highlight: Rookie running back Shonn Greene has a day against Wisconsin, going for 217 yards and 4 TD’s. His second touchdown run at the 1:55 mark is extra pretty. Thomas Jones, Leon Washington, and now this guy? I like it.

Ten Reasons the Jets Won't Make the Playoffs

First a few updates:

1. The Jets signed their sixth round draft pick Matt Slauson to a contract, although the terms were undisclosed. They also released cornerback Tyron Brackenridge.

2. According to Drew Rosenhaus and his Twitter account, Thomas Jones will be attending Jets OTA’s beginning next Wednesday. There has apparently been progress in their discussions, but we’ll see what the situation is when Jones arrives in Florham Park next week. Ideally, Jones and Leon Washington will have a week of practice under their belts before mandatory practice starts on June 9th.

3. David Clowney has a site over at: www.davidclowney87.com which provides some interesting updates about the Jets OTA’s and the ongoing receiver battle. Jay Feely’s twitter account complimented the Jets offense for their past practice on Monday and said Chansi Stuckey was the player of the day…we’ll take any update we can get until media availability on Thursday.

4. An NBA Minute – Kobe and Carmelo are going to be fun to watch this Western Conference Finals. You forget how good of a scorer ‘Melo can be, but he was awesome last night. Kobe simply carried the Lakers to a win, his supporting cast isn’t as good as advertised. I still like Denver in 7.

Ten Reasons the Jets Won’t Make the Playoffs

I did recently proclaim the Jets would be a playoff team next season but let’s play devil’s advocate for a little while and look at reasons why they may not make the playoffs in 2009. I will of course follow this article tomorrow, with ten reasons why they will make the playoffs next year:

1. Too Young at Key Spots – An inexperienced quarterback and a first year head coach can’t be expected to navigate the Jets through the AFC East in to a playoff spot. Rex Ryan sounds great but we don’t know anything about his in game management skills yet or how our quarterback will respond in close games.

2. Not Enough Weapons – Jerricho Cotchery is a very good number two receiver, not a number one. Behind him, they have a group of inexperienced players who have never been full time starters. They are thin at tight end, and are one injury away from starting Bubba Franks or a converted defensive lineman, in Kareem Brown.

3. Lack of Depth on Offensive Line – If the Jets have one injury to any of their five starters, a highly inexpierienced player will be asked to step into a full time role. Can they maintain a strong rushing attack with Wayne Hunter or Robert Turner up front?

4. Contract Issues – Thomas Jones and Leon Washington are both currently unhappy with their contracts. Will this affect their play or serve as a distraction to the rest of the team? The Jets may struggle if rookie Shonn Greene is asked to handle too many carries.

5. Lack of Depth on Defensive Line – Marques Douglas and Mike DeVito are career backups who will be splitting reps at a starting defensive end spot. There isn’t much behind them at the end position or much behind Kris Jenkins at the nose tackle spot.

6. Difficult Division – The Patriots were 11-5 last year without Tom Brady behind center and he now appears to be fully healthy. Buffalo added Terrell Owens to an already dangerous offense and Miami has Bill Parcells running the show, which means they always have a shot. It is going to take at least 10 wins to even threaten for a wild card spot this year.

7. Tough Schedule – The Jets have to face the NFC and AFC South, both of which were very strong divisions last year. The Colts, Titans, Falcons, and Panthers were all playoff teams and the Bucs, Saints, and Texans were all .500 or better.

8. Chemistry Issues – The Jets will be adjusting to two new starters in the secondary, Lito Sheppard and Jim Leonhard. Sheppard has injury concerns and is coming off his worst season ever and Leonhard has never started for an entire season.

9. B-Schott – Offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer is coming off a very average year, where he struggled to find any consistency with his play calling and was often too conservative. Will he able to create enough points with an inexperienced quarterback and receiving core?

10. Punter? – Yes, I am reaching for reasons here all the way down at number ten but the Jets currently don’t have a punter on their roster with any NFL experience. We saw last year on San Diego how much of a difference a good punter could make.

What are Reasonable Expectations for the Jets?

First a few updates:

1. The TOJ Hall of Fame and TOJ Hall of Shame are now fully up and running. Take the time to check out the pages, which are linked across the top of the web-site.

2. For some reason, NFL Films is running a replay of the Jets/Bills regular season game in Buffalo from this past season. A few observations after re-watching the game today: Drew Coleman is awful, Kris Jenkins is unstoppable when he is at his best, Brian Schottenheimer is way too conservative, Calvin Pace doesn’t get enough for credit for how good he is, Jerricho Cotchery has great hands but has a tough time getting separation, Dustin Keller needs to increase his football IQ, and Thomas Jones is quicker than he gets credit for.

3. Pacman Jones to the Jets? I don’t buy this rumor for a second. The Jets have no need for him, as they have good depth at corner and obviously don’t need a guy like that in the locker room.

What are Reasonable Expectations for the Jets?

The Jets were a 9 win team last season who just missed making the playoffs. After this off-season, I believe it is fair to expect them to be a 10+ win team and strongly contend not just for a playoff spot but also for a deep run into January. It may sound like a bold statement, but let me argue why that isn’t necessarily the case.

I look at their defense and see a unit that was very good last season. They have improved at inside linebacker by upgrading from Eric Barton to Bart Scott. Vernon Gholston has nowhere to go but up from last year, and if Rex Ryan can get anything out of him this year, the Jets will be upgraded at outside linebacker also. The Jets other returning outside linebackers, Calvin Pace and Bryan Thomas are both former 4-3 defensive ends, which means they have strong pass rushing skills. Rex Ryan’s new defensive scheme is more conducive to their talents, than Eric Mangini’s defense which often asked them to drop into pass coverage. 

In the secondary, the Jets have upgraded at both cornerback and safety. Lito Sheppard is a better starter than Dwight Lowery, and Donald Strickland will provide a veteran nickel-back who will also push Lowery to become better. Basically, last year’s #2 corner (Lowery) is now bumped down to being their #4 corner. Abram Elam wasn’t an awful starter at safety last year but Jim Leonhard’s skill set is a better fit for the defense, and he provides better pass coverage skills along with a similar presence inside the box against the run. 

They are thinner on the defensive line this season. However, Kris Jenkins has recently went on record to say that Rex Ryan’s defense won’t be as physically demanding on his body. If Jenkins can remain fully healthy all season, the Jets will be getting a major improvement at defensive tackle over the last 5 games of the regular season compared to 2008. There is pressure on Marques Douglas and Mike DeVito to match Kenyon Coleman’s production on defense, although the only production he really had was against the run. He only managed 0.5 sacks last year, so it shouldn’t be hard for the two of them to match his pass rushing skills. 

On offense, the Jets improved their depth at running back and added another short yardage/goal-line threat by drafting Shonn Greene. They are returning their entire starting offensive line, and added more depth by drafting Matt Slauson in the 6th round. Their top two backups from last year (Robert Turner and Wayne Hunter) are also returning with more experience under their belt. At quarterback, Mark Sanchez/Kellen Clemens can’t play any worse than Brett Favre did in the last 5 games of the regular season last year. When the Jets were winning last season, Favre was managing the game in a similar way that the Jets quarterback will be asked to this year. Look at Favre’s numbers in the Jets key wins last year:

Week 1 vs Miami: 15/22, 194 yards, 2 TD’s.

Week 6 vs. Cincinnati: 25/33, 189 yards, 1 TD, 2 INT’s

Week 8 vs. Kansas City: 28/40, 290 yards, 2 TD’s, 3 INT’s

Week 9 vs. Buffalo: 19/28, 201 yards, 0 TD, 1 INT

Week 10 vs. St. Louis: 14/19, 167 yards, 1 TD

Week 12 vs. Tennessee: 25/32, 224 yards, 2 TD’s, 1 INT

Week 15 vs. Buffalo: 17/30, 207 yards, 1 TD, 2 INT’s

The point is outside of two Jets wins (Arizona and New England) Favre never really put up great numbers when the Jets won games. I think Mark Sanchez or Kellen Clemens can handle going 15/21 for 190 yards and that they are going to throw less interceptions. If whomever the Jets quarterback is next year can throw 12 INT’s instead of 22, it is going to make a big difference in a positive way for the team. 

The Jets are weaker at tight end and wide receiver than they were in 2008. They haven’t replaced Chris Baker (a strong blocker and 21 catches) or Laveranues Coles (70 catches, 850 yards, 7 TD’s). However, at tight end Dustin Keller should be improved in his second year and at wide receiver, a guy like David Clowney (pictured to the left) could turn into a big time playmaker now that he is being given an opportunity. Regardless, the Jets still need to add depth at both positions. 

 

The 2009 schedule isn’t a friendly one but it certainly is manageable. Outside of their division, 6 of their 10 games are against teams who didn’t make the playoffs last year. Within the division, New England is always tough, the Bills added TO but beyond that had a weak overall off-season and have major questions at the offensive line and running back. The Dolphins are going to struggle this year. They were the 2006 Jets last year, and are going to be the 2007 Jets this year. I love Chad Pennington but teams are going to be all over their gimmick based offense and their lack of talent on that side of the ball will hurt them this year. 

Right now I’d say the Jets are a 10 win team and if they add another tight end and receiver, they could be a 11-12 win team. Right out of the gate we will find out where they stand since in their first 6 games they play all three divisional opponents and 2 other quality teams (Tennessee and New Orleans).